Candidates on the Issues: Getting ready to vote this Tuesday

Credit: Samuel Britt

Democratic Primary ballots are due in Washington this Tuesday, March 10. The field of candidates has shrunk dramatically in just the past week with Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren all dropping out within a matter of days. This has left the field with two front runner candidates, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Vice President Joe Biden, as well as the representative from Hawaii’s second district, Tulsi Gabbard, who has remained in the race despite widespread discrediting from the media and Democratic party. Here is a breakdown of the candidates’ positions on some of the most controversial issues of this election season to help you cast your vote with confidence:  


Every candidate currently running for the Democratic nomination agrees that our healthcare system doesn’t work. However, proposals differ on how to solve it. That difference has become a central issue in this year’s campaign. How should the government address this issue?

Medicare for all

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard support a plan dubbed “Medicare for All.” The bill, originally written by Sen. Sanders, would provide health insurance for all Americans through the federal government. Under the program, you could still purchase private insurance to supplement the coverage. But the expansion of Medicare would eliminate large swaths of the current health insurance industry.

Medicare for all who want it

Former Vice President Joe Biden supports an expansion of the “Affordable Care Act” and a “Medicare for all who want it” plan, which would allow citizens to buy insurance from the federal government as an alternative to private plans instead of a replacement.

Climate Change

While climate change has been a relatively minor issue in previous elections, increasing concerns over rising temperatures and protests have brought the issue to prominence. What should we do to minimize global warming?

Green New Deal

Bernie Sanders supports a Green New Deal, the climate legislation originally introduced to congress by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The plan includes converting the US energy infrastructure to 100% renewable, with provisions to assist workers currently in the fossil fuel industry in finding new jobs in renewable energy and increased funding for public lands. Opponents say the plan is not viable and could severely impact the environment.

Tax carbon emissions

Biden’s campaign has said that he supports a plan to put a price on carbon emissions released into the atmosphere to provide an economic disincentive to pollute. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard both oppose it due to concerns about equality and effectiveness.

Impose regulations and dedicate funds to renewable technology research

All campaigns, Biden’s included, support new emissions regulations, rejoining the Paris agreement, and allocating significant funds to the fight against climate change.

Student Debt

Forty-four million Americans have student debt, and the Brookings institution estimated that up to 40% of them might default on their student loans by 2023. Candidates agree that this looming debt crisis needs to be addressed, but there are different thoughts about how to best address it. 

Canceled Student Debt for all Americans

Sanders’ plan is the most sweeping, canceling a total of 1.6 trillion dollars in student loans, regardless of income.

Other forgiveness programs should be expanded or fixed

Biden and Gabbard, like all Democratic candidates, support expanding and reforming ineffective programs designed to give debt relief to those working in the public service center, many of which have not delivered on their promises, but do not support the broader debt relief that Sanders and Warren advocate.

Wealth Inequality

Wealth inequality in America is massive—the top 1% of households in the U.S. possess more wealth than the bottom 90% combined. What should be done?

Increase the capital gains tax

Currently, when you sell an asset that has appreciated over time, such as a stock or bond, you have to pay a tax on the increase in that asset’s value, which ranges from 0% to 20% depending on your income. Under Biden’s proposal, this rate would increase to a maximum of 40%. This would slow the accumulation of fortunes, as the wealthy often make a large amount of money from the appreciation of assets like stocks and bonds.

Tax the assets of the super-wealthy

Sen. Bernie Sanders advocates for a tax on the assets of the super-wealthy to alleviate this inequality. Sanders’ plan would start at a 1% tax on total assets over $32 million for a married couple, and scale to 8% on fortunes over $1 billion. These taxes, along with increased capital gains and income taxes, would go to funding the senator’s social programs: free child care, “Medicare for All,” student debt forgiveness, etc. 

National Debt

The U.S. national debt has grown to a staggeringly large figure of $23,205,880,808,458. That’s $23.2 trillion or roughly $68 thousand per person.

Commit to lowering or stabilizing it

Both Joe Biden and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard support measures to reign in the growth of the national debt through increased taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

Not commit to lowering or stabilizing it

While Sen. Bernie Sanders has acknowledged that the national debt is a concern, he argues that other issues such as climate change and healthcare pose a more imminent threat to the well-being of Americans.

Free College

According to numbers from the Federal Reserve and the National Center for Education Statistics, the cost of college has increased eight times as quickly as wages in the U.S. This has made higher education unaffordable for many even as it becomes more and more necessary to succeed in a jobs market dominated by automation. What kind of support should the government provide to help mitigate the cost of education?

Four years of college should be paid for by the government

Sen. Bernie Sanders supports a plan to make four years of instruction tuition-free at all public colleges and universities, arguing that it is necessary for the continued success of our nation.

Two years of college should be paid for by the government

Biden’s campaign plans to make two-year community colleges tuition-free but does not go so far as to make the full four years free, instead proposing other programs to help make college affordable for lower-income families.

Four years should be free for lower and middle incomes, two for anyone.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard supports four years of free public college tuition for families that make up to $125,000 per year, and two years of community college free for anyone.

Gun Licensing

Gun deaths in the U.S. are 25 times higher than in any other nation. All candidates support universal background checks and an assault weapons ban with voluntary buybacks, but should a license be required to own a gun?

Yes, at least for assault weapons.

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ requires a license for any assault weapon—semi-automatic and automatic weapons, like those often used in mass shootings.

No, but states should be able to require one

Joe Biden is not campaigning for a national licensing program but plans to pass legislation allowing states to enact such a program if they deem it valuable.